All-Star confab: Judge, J-Rod swap signed gear

August 10th, 2022

SEATTLE -- Julio Rodríguez was about to duck from the home dugout into the batting cage to take more swings as he works his way back from a right wrist contusion. But first, he said: “We’re about to make a trade.”

Say what? The Trade Deadline has passed?

No, it wasn’t a roster transaction in the works, but rather, an exchange of memorabilia in the ultimate moment of game recognizing game. The trade partner: Yankees superstar Aaron Judge, whom Rodríguez met behind home plate ahead of Wednesday’s matinee at T-Mobile Park.

Rodríguez carefully penned his name on a stitched home Mariners jersey with his No. 44 and on a light-colored bat in exchange for a darker-toned bat from Judge, with a message and autograph in gold lettering from the Yanks’ four-time All-Star.

After, the two shared an extended conversation behind home plate, discussing hitting, health and everything in between over roughly five minutes.

“Stay healthy,” Judge told Rodríguez as they slapped hands and hugged one final time, at which point Seattle’s rookie responded, smiling: “We’re going to come back and play you guys in the postseason.”

The Mariners, who walked off the Yanks in a thrilling, 13-inning victory on Tuesday, entered play holding the second AL Wild Card spot, while the Yanks are running away with the American League East. Rodríguez, on the 10-day IL, did not play, but he’s expected to return this weekend in Arlington.

Rodríguez and Judge first connected at last month’s All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium in the AL clubhouse. For the 21-year-old who was on a global stage for the first time and meeting stars that he grew up watching as far back as when he was a child, such as Miguel Cabrera and Albert Pujols, he said that Judge was one of the first people he wanted to talk to.

And in Rodríguez’s electric Home Run Derby performance, Judge -- the 2017 Derby winner -- was among those in awe on the sidelines. Judge leads the Majors with a whopping 44 entering play Wednesday.

The confab between the 2017 AL Rookie of the Year and the favorite for the Award in 2022 was a microcosmic moment encapsulating one of the current faces of baseball meeting one of the future’s.